In a World Cup full of fantastically memorable moments and relatively little controversy, one man, and one incident in particular dominate all the headlines and conversation around the world.
The man involved, of course is 27-year-old Uruguayan, Luis Suarez. During Uruguay’s final group D clash against Italy, Suarez allegedly bit Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini. The incident which was captured by over a dozen camera angles, has subsequently been seen by millions of spectators around the globe.
In the aftermath of the infamous ‘bite’ Suarez has received a hefty ban from FIFA’s disciplinary panel. The ban handed to Suarez means he will not be available for Uruguay in their next nine internationals, and in addition to this, Suarez is banned from all football related activities for four months, which will consequently affect his start to the Premier League season with Liverpool FC.
Despite debate over the Uruguayan’s future with Liverpool, transfers to other top European clubs or even the possible additional disciplinary action he may face; a discussion which has not received much publicity, is that of ‘what impact seeing such a popular and well known role model commit such an offence, will have on young people, and followers of the beautiful game?’
Role models in sport play a massive part in young people’s lives today, and someone who knows this only too well is founder and spokesperson for a company who aims to help educate and inspire young people in the community through sport, Tyrell Simpson.
Simpson’s company SAAAB Through Sport (Safeguarding Against Aggressive Anti-social Behaviour), is a community-based company which works with local youngsters promoting good practice and encouraging proactive responses to supporting children to manage their own behaviour.
In an exclusive interview with Tyrell Simpson for givemesport.com, we have opened up the debate from the perspective of those who are working at grass roots level to promote positive behaviours in youngsters and the impacts, negative or positive, role models have on the youth of today.
When asked for his view on the Luis Suarez ‘biting’ incident Simpson stated: “My first thought was, what has he done? Again. I also thought, what is going to happen to him now and I thought of the consequences.”
Simpson added: “The bite was clear to see on Chiellini’s shoulder, and Suarez had no way of denying this, the video evidence was clear for all to see”
What impact does Simpson think an incident like this have, on him as a coach/leader of young people, and the young people he works with?
“I always think of these incidents from a company point of view, and how this affects the job we are trying to do," he said. "We aim to deter young people from crime, anti-social behaviour and these sorts of things and as a role model Suarez’s actions can’t be justified.”
He added: “The young people we work with, watch football, the World Cup and Match of the Day and look up to footballers like Luis Suarez. When young people see these types of behaviours they follow it, act them out and feel that they are acceptable, just as they do with the skills and celebrations they see.
“When nothing happens it shows it ok to do this on the pitch, and it gives the feeling that if you can do this on the football pitch, you can do this in society. It does have a knock on effect, and this is why I feel more action must be taken.”
When asked about the impact sports people have as role models. Simpson responded by saying that the impact of role models these days is “Massive”.
He explained how as a company, SAAAB Through Sport, use role models positively to “inspire and motivate” the young people they work with. SAAAB Through Sport has a number of nationally recognised ambassadors Including Swansea City and Wales international captain Ashley Williams.
“Regardless of what he has done Suarez is a role model," he explained. "So when he puts himself in these situations, I find it mind boggling, especially as, one he is a father, and two he has millions of footballing fans looking up to him, not only children but adults also. With young children of his own I feel he has let himself down.”
Does he think that the punishment handed out by FIFA was adequate given Suarez's offence and the fact it isn't the first time he's bitten someone?
“In my opinion, I feel there should be serious consequences because he has committed this offence before. In the community if you commit an offence you may receive a caution, but if you repeat this offence there is a possibility you will be prosecuted, if you commit and offence for a third time you will most certainly be prosecuted and face jail, so there is always a consequence.”
Simpson finished by saying: “I think it should be mentioned that when it happened Suarez tried to play down the incident by saying he didn’t think it should be made a story of, but in my opinion at this stage I think he realised the mistake he had made and the trouble he was going to be in.”
“I feel he should have apologised, and even now he should come out and apologise, because people aren’t stupid, the evidence is clear and people can come to their own judgements. If he continues to plead his innocence he is just trying to put a plaster over a wound, but this wound will never heal. He needs to realise he has let his fans down, his family down and his country down.”
Prior to my interview with Tyrell Simpson he showed me a tweet he had sent directly to Luis Suarez which said: ‘@luis16suarez contact us via DM we would like to support you, we are an official organisation that have helped other professional athletes’.
As of yet, unfortunately Luis Suarez has not taken up the offer of support from SAAAB Through Sport.
To find out more about Tyrell Simpson and SAAAB Through Sport, you can find him on twitter @saaabthrusport, @awsoccercamp or visit the website www.saaabthroughsport.co.uk
In conclusion it is fair to say that role models and sports stars will always cause controversy and discussion. The question remains however, how will FIFA manage the fall out from the Luis Suarez incident, and how will sports coaches, leaders, teachers and parents educate young people to behave in the right manner in light of such unacceptable behaviour shown by one of the world most talked about role models.
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